Jarvis Coffin: Off the Highway – Power to the people

Jarvis Coffin


Published: 12-07-2023 9:00 AM

Modified: 12-11-2023 2:20 PM

Thank you to Eversource, which was back again for the second week in a row to restore our power, this time at 2:30 in the morning.

We have a generator that comes on automatically under the circumstances, but you could easily miss noticing it sound asleep in the middle of the night. Especially when muffled by snow and wind as it was, and on the opposite side of the house.

It is a peculiar thing to wake in the middle of the night conscious that something is different. I am sure you know. It was not the background noise of the generator I noticed first. Nor the present darkness because the lights were off to begin with. I think it was the click of the electrical panel in the basement when the generator kicked on.

Probably years ago, as a young, first-time homeowner with sleeping children down the hallway – newly responsible for things that go bump in the night – my subconscious classified sounds made by an electrical panel as important, with instructions to wake him if necessary. So, I think that is what woke me. A couple of blinks of the eye later I clued to the distant generator.


I sat up in bed, felt around the side table for the mobile phone, surfed to Eversource, entered my number, clicked “power outage,” got up to stoke the wood stove and waited for the telephone to ring, which it did in about five minutes.

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“Hey, hello,” said the Eversource agent. (He really said that. Very cheerful.) No power? Did you hear a loud bang? Could you maybe check your meter outside and tell me what it says? (Nothing.) OK, two crews are mobilized (he said that, too, which is like hearing the cavalry is coming). They are marching to Francestown (he did not say “marching”). Then, on to you!”

At some point, we are going to be on a first-name basis with these people. As I mentioned, this was the second week in a row they came to the rescue. It is possible, instead, that a representative will reach out eventually to explain that if we continue living where we do, we will have to survive by generating our own electricity. Enough of sending people to hike through snowy woods in the middle of the night. Which dooms a good portion of New Hampshire, of course, but the point is, we are grateful.

Two trucks came down the driveway, search lights probing through the trees, men dismounted and scouting on foot. They found nothing, determined the wires had been shorted by an unknown falling branch and turned the power back on. The electrical panel clicked. The clock said 2:30. They drove away.

I wonder how far it will be in the future when the notion that we delivered electrical power around the world by stringing wires over hill and dale will seem archaic. We are at the dawn of artificial intelligence. It is a good problem for the deep minds, which I discussed with my friend, Chat Brutus, this morning:

Me: “What do you think is the likelihood we'll conduct electricity someday without wires?”

Chat Brutus (edited down by me for space considerations. Brutus is excitable and gets chatty): “While there are still technical and practical challenges to overcome, the likelihood of conducting electricity without wires in the future is promising.”

Me: “Do you think AI can help speed up that eventuality?”

Chat Brutus: “Absolutely. Here's how:

1. Design optimization.

2. Simulation and modeling

3. Energy efficiency

4. Material science

5. Automation of wireless power transmission systems, ensuring optimal performance and safety.

By leveraging AI technology, we can accelerate the development and deployment of wireless electricity transmission systems, bringing us closer to the realization of this exciting technological advancement.”

Me: “Thanks, friend.”

Chat Brutus: “You're welcome, Jarvis! If you need anything else or have more questions in the future, don't hesitate to reach out. I'm here to help.”

There you have it. Though, as always, I am left wondering how I feel about another “exciting technological advancement” versus rescue by two guys gamely clomping through snowy woods in the middle of the night. I suppose the answer is I am moved to write about the one today and question what there will be to write about the other tomorrow.

Jarvis Coffin writes fiction and essays on rural life. He is a retired media and advertising sales executive, and former chef/owner, with his wife, of New Hampshire’s oldest inn, the Hancock Inn. Reach him at huntspond@icloud.com, and keep up with all his musings at postcard-from-monadnock.ghost.io.